Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King Reliving the Civil Right Era as she Remembers her Friends – Lowery, Vivian and Lewis

Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King and Congressman John Lewis - Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc

Rev. Dr. Alfred King, affectionately known as A. D. King, younger brother of Martin L. King, Jr., was the victim of a suspicious drowning death 51 years ago on July 21,1969, 15 months after his brother’s assassination. Today, in Atlanta, Rev. A.D. King’s beloved widow, Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King is still making history and keeping his legacy alive with the A D King Foundation, Inc along with the foundation’s President Dr. Babs Onabanjo, also the Faculty Senate Chair and a Professor at Atlanta Metropolitan State College.

Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King keeping her husband Rev. Dr. A.D. King’s Legacy alive – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

At the moment, Mrs. King is in a state of mourning after having to say goodbye to three other Historic, Honorable, Unforgettable Civil Rights Leaders within the last four months.  Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery passed March 27, 2020; Rev. Dr. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian and Congressman John Lewis both passed on Friday, July 17, 2020, leaving the world deeply in mourning, including me.

Dr. Babs Onabanjo, Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King and Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

Dr. Babs Onabanjo and Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

The Year 2020 will never be forgotten for so many shocking reasons: the tragic loss of sports icon Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna being killed in a helicopter crash, our many civil right leaders passing on and the two diseases which continue to dominate this year, COVID-19 Virus and Systemic Racism.

The truth spoken by Maya Angelou
Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth



In March 2020, I was blessed to be part of the A D King Foundation when adults and children were exploring the historical Civil Rights Trail from Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma commemorating the 55th  Anniversary of  “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama with the graceful, energetic, Mrs. King at age 88.

Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King, Dr. Babs Onabanjo and members of the A D King Foundation in Alabama – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

It was a breath-taking experience watching and hearing her reflect on the stories about her husband, A.D. King and his journey to Selma on March 7, 1965 with Lowery, Vivian, Lewis and many other significant leaders and citizens.

Before we ended our journey in Selma, Alabama, we visited Birmingham to see where Mrs. King and her husband’s Church Parsonage was bombed in 1963.

Rev. A.D. King and Naomi King shocked at the bombing of their home by three members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) who were police officers – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

We visited Kelly Ingram Park where the Statue of A D King and two other pastors kneeling down praying is located. Also, the place where the water hoses and dogs were used on the Negros who were demanding an end to systemic racism, poverty, violence, and agitating for justice and freedom.  

Dr. Babs Onabanjo and Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King where she’s touching her husband’s arm in Birmingham, AlabamaPhoto Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

We rode by the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing site where the four little girls were killed in the blast by the Ku Klux Klan and one little sister who losted her eye and is still living. Decades later the three men responsible for their deaths were finally sentence to life in prison and justice was served. The last one died in prison last month in June. 

Birmingham Civil Rights Museum was beautiful from our bus and we could see memorable monuments that were painful to see but it’s history. We will complete the full tour on our annual visit next year since we had so many other historical stops.

In Montgomery, we rode by Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (presently, known as Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church), the first church where Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. became a Pastor (1954-1960).  We visited Rosa Park Museum

Renee Sudderth being very appreciative of Rosa Parks Museum – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

where we actually got on a bus and could hear the bus driver telling her to get up from her bus seat and she refused. Also, we heard people screaming at the civil rights activists during their Sit-Ins.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is where my heart sunk many times.  

A sad part in history but the story is being felt and told –
Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

Part of history we will never forget but continue to move forward – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

The youths and adults learned from the film and seeing actual items that depicted the way it was during the Civil Rights Movement. As I watched the hurt and pain on Mrs. King’s face, I began feeling the hurt and pain she experienced in her face.

Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King reliving history mentally and emotionally – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

We ended our Saturday activities by going to the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee Festival that had entertainment and great soul food dishes.

 

The Buffalo Soldiers representing – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth


Renee Sudderth, Carmen Goforth and Janice Webb all co workers but volunteering their services to different organizations for the purposes of our youths and history – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

On Sunday morning before the “Bloody Sunday” activities, we joined with another organization from Atlanta, M.A.D.I.O.C. Inc (Making A Difference In Our Communities) Founder and CEO Felicia Stanley- Johnson with her staff and young people.  

Felicia Stanley- Johnson, Founder and CEO of M.A.D.I.O.C. Inc (Making A Difference In Our Communities) reading history to her youth – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

We stopped at Lowndes Interpretative Center on Hwy 80 where I learned new history about “Tent City”, etc. A place where homeless registered Black voters with their families lived for a year or two after they were kicked off of their own land by wealthy white landowners.

“Tent City” History – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

A D King Foundation, Inc and M.A.D.I.O.C. Inc joining together for one cause – Remembering the Struggles in Alabama and telling our youth about it – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

We rode on down Hwy 80 to visit the Memorial Site of Viola Liuzzo, the first known Caucasian shot and killed by the Ku Klux Klan under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, Director of FBI because she was volunteering with voting registration with the civil rights movement. All of this was so educational and meaningful.

Mrs. King, sadly remembering her friend, Viola Liuzzo who lost her life by assisting those with the Right To Vote – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc

 Afterward, we attended church services at Brown Chapel AME Church

Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King and Rev. Al Sharpton, an American Activist, Politician, Talk Show Host, etc – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc
Martin Luther King III, an American Human Rights Activist, Community Activist and the oldest son of Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King- Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

where majority of the Democratic Presidential Nominees including Former Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden gathered and spoke while Mrs. Naomi King sat comfortably up front with nephew, Martin Luther King III. They acknowledged her and her late husband, Dr. Rev. A.D. King. She was very pleased so now she was ready for the re-enactment of that infamous March across the historical Edmund Pettus Bridge resulting in “Bloody Sunday” over 55 years ago. 

Millions came from around the world to march across this bridge. At her age, Mrs. King was determined to start the march in the absence of her other King family members. Her nephew, Martin Luther King III was marching also. She felt so honored and was actually joyed and excited to be there.

Mrs. King and others preparing for the March on the Edmund Pettus BridgePhoto Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.
Dr. Babs Onabanjo and Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr., a longtime Civil Rights Activist and Leader; Freedom Rider, Chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and his wife, Kate Bulls Lafayette at the Edmund Pettus BridgePhoto Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.
Renee Sudderth, Splash Magazine Photojournalist at the historical Edmund Pettus Bridge where blood was shed 55 years ago so we could have the RIGHT TO VOTE – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

On March 7, 1965, she was not with her husband because she was home taking care of their 5 children, Alveda, Alfred II (deceased), Derek, Darlene (deceased) and Vernon King (deceased). But that day will forever be etched in her mind. That’s the day life changed for A.D. King and others marching across that bridge to stand up so blacks would have the right to vote, have equality, justice and more. 

They began their march and were stopped in their tracks when the Alabama State Troopers used tear gas, Billy clubs, excessive force to beat them that many received life-long severe injuries. A.D. King received broken ribs, John Lewis said he thought he saw death

Congressman John Lewis

because he was the first one in the line to meet those troopers, who actually fractured his skull, was left bleeding and was unconscious. But later on, a strong, brave, and determined young Lewis got up from his hospital bed with his injury and he kept fighting and getting in “Good Trouble” throughout his life. Including 33 years as an United States Representative until God called him to retire permanently on Friday, July 17, 2020 at age 80 from pancreatic cancer. Although stricken with cancer, he still made one more last powerful appearance and speech on that Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The Historical Edmund Pettus Bridge with the Iconic Congressman John Lewis making his last speech on this bridge (March 1, 2020) knowing 55 years ago he could had died on this bridge – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc

Many other true warriors were on that bridge that day but the two we lost in 2020, also included Rev. C.T. Vivian who kept fighting from that day until he passed away peacefully the same day as Lewis on July 17, 2020 at age 95.  Prior to their deaths, their other friend, Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, the “Dean of the Civil Rights” led the march on that day and many other marches before his passing on March 27, 2020 at age 98.

After “Bloody Sunday”, Dr. Lowery became Chairman of a committee to take their demands to Alabama’s Governor George Wallace known as the Governor for his historical statement, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever” but changed his heart years later. The next step was for the Civil Rights Leaders to go to Washington D.C. when the historic bill, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act display – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

In my opinion, the Lord did not call these three strong Civil Rights Leaders home in an election year for people to sit at home and not exercise their voting rights knowing these three leaders and others made ultimate sacrifices to have the right to vote. 

Remember to always VOTE – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

While Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King is still here to vote, and her President, Dr. Babs Onabanjo of A D King Foundation, myself and others are still here to vote, we will do our civil rights duties whether it’s in honor of the Kings, Lowery, Vivian or Lewis. We shall and will do our part because every human being deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, honor and with grace. 

Stan Mullin’s Art Studio responsible for Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King’s beautiful bust he created in her honor and her continuous contribution to society – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

A D King Foundation will hold a demonstration on September 4, 2020 on Metropolitan Pkwy (Wendy’s) in Atlanta, Georgia to promote voter registration and to demand for police reform and end to systemic racism and dehumanization of people of color. “Peoples Lives Matter”.  

Never forget your history and don’t allow it to repeat itself, no more of the shameful years that we know about. And thank you, Mrs. King, for allowing me to observe and learn from you as I took that walk with you down memory lane remembering how it was 55 years ago in the state of Alabama.  Always remember the famous words of Congressman Lewis, “Get In Good Trouble”, “Win People Over With a Spirit of Love” and to be a “Non-Violence Warrior”. 

Renee Sudderth, a special privilege to sit emotionally in Congressman John Lewis’ U. S. Representative office in Washington D.C. in 2013 for President Barack Obama’s 2nd Inauguration – Photo Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King wants us to remember today is her husband, Rev. Dr. A.D. King’s 51st Memorial Anniversary and wants us to remember her great Civil Rights Leader Friends; Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, and Congressman John Lewis who were recipients of the highly honorable Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, “They fought a good fight and made a difference in our world today and forever. Well done! Rest In Peace and may God grant their families and loved ones the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss”.

Three Civil Rights Legends and Leaders who will never be forgotten, Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, and Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery who received their Marching Orders to Heaven in 2020
Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, and Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery – WE THANK YOU BOTH FOR A GREAT JOURNEY – Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.
The beautiful and elegant Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King who is still reliving the Civil Rights Era and remembering her Civil Rights Friends and her husband, Rev. Dr. A.D. King Photo Courtesy of A D King Foundation, Inc.

For more information about the foundation visit:  www.adkingfoundation.com , www.adkingfoundation.ning.comwww.facebook.com/Drbabs.onabanjo , www.youtube.com/Babsonabanjo

Rev. C. T. Vivian Interview by Dr. Babs Onabanjo: https://youtu.be/EFmnjWW-F-U

Sonya Jenkins beautifully interviews Congressman John Lewis at his 75th Birthday Celebration in which I attended – Courtesy of Sonya Jenkins

Please check these Splash Magazine Worldwide articles by Renee Sudderth:

A.D. King Foundation Youth Empowerment Gala ??? A Memorable Moment

Martin Luther King- 50 Years Later

Alberta King, The Mother of Dr. Martin L. King Remembered 

18 Comments

  1. Renee, I enjoyed reading your historical story. The pictures were priceless. Thank you for sharing your walk with some true civil rights leaders. We will need our young people to follow their path with grace, Nonviolence, and dignity.

    • Thank you Renee for sharing this with all the world who cares to view and learn from it. I’m still learning daily about our history and the warriors who fought the great battles back then and now so we can enjoy the freedom we have presently. I’m so happy things are changing once again re police brutality and murder of our men. It’s really about time. May God bless your very worthy mind, hand and spirit. Cheryl I. former room mate USAF.

  2. Renee, thank you so much for sharing a powerful and memorable piece of photojournalism. Thanks for including us in the journey of recognition and appreciation of those Civil Rights Leaders who enhanced global and solid foundations of civil rights so that we can continue to establish powerful pillars of equal rights for all that will stand the test of time. Always the very best that we can imagine and affirmatively actualize.

  3. EARTHA SIMS – July 21, 2020 – Via Email – Beautiful ❗️❗️❣️✨The beauty of this historical Civil Rights Trail is because we walked the walk of those who died for us because they loved us and didn’t even know us. And, as we walk the walk, strangers became family and friends.

  4. A D KING FOUNDATION – July 22, 2020 – Via FACEBOOK – You did a great job. Everyone, please share in remembrance of these iconic heroes of our time. Gone but not forgotten. Rest In Peace!

  5. JANICE WEBB – July 22, 2020 – Via Email – It was a great article with some really good pictures. We have lost 3 civil rights icons in 4 months, two doing civil unrest. Will we every understand. That in order for all lives to matter, black lives have to matter too. Next, you will be writing about the new leaders. Continue to do God’s work Renee.

  6. SHARON HAYES-TERRELL – July 22, 2020 – Via EMAIL – Thank you so very much for sharing these Magnificent History Moments. I truly enjoyed a look back at the History remembering how far we have come to be “STUCK” almost in the same place, Fighting for Justice and Rights. I attended many protest marches in my youth. I felt the sting of Racism and Segregation while attending Decatur High School, in Atlanta. If I am physically able to attend the trip with you next year, please let me know what I need to do.

  7. TONI SUDDERTH – July 25, 2020 – It was great. I enjoyed looking at the pictures and the article was very informative. Our youth must know this history for them to move us forward.

  8. BETTY JO COOKE – July 27, 2020 – Via EMAIL – Renee, thank you for sharing so much rich history to us. We can’t forget all of the hardships, and brutal treatment that these civil rights leaders went through so we can have the life we live right now. I know they don’t teach this in our schools today, but I try to make sure my grandsons know how bless they are and to know that King, William, Lowery, Lewis, Young, Vivian and so many more suffered so we have life more abundantly. You are a great writer and historian. Love you much😊 have a great day.

  9. Renee, I’m so grateful for the history you’ve shared with everyone. I’m especially grateful that young people can read this and get an understanding of some of the things people went through to weed out some injustice in America. Again, thanks for sharing.

  10. Well Renée you have done it again♥️🙏😊I’m Fascinated by your work, and the great leaders that you are fortunate to meet along your journalism journey! Doesn’t it feel exhilarating and fulfilling to work and live your passion?

    After reading columns/history of each of these great leaders and freedom fighter it leaves my heart sad and wondering, “what do we do now especially now, in the world that we live in without these soldiers? Each of them suffered searching for freedom for us, “ I salute you, I will always honor each of you for standing in your truth, for standing up for us all!” Once again thank you Renee for sharing with us, for opening eyes about the history of the ones who have fought and is fighting because Black lives matters. Who will carry the torch?

  11. NATHAN KNIGHT – Aug 6, 2020 – I read word for word real closely. It was so well written and very informative. Everybody don’t realize how Rev. AD King’s widow, Mrs. Naomi King has worked continuously to keep his legacy alive along with Dr. Baps, the President of The A D King Foundation. So much history to be told.

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